A good massage from a great spa can release tension, relieve anxiety and treat soft tissue strains. Toss in sunshine, fine dining and America’s most famous beach and that makes a spa vacation in Miami a very attractive adventure.
The Intimate Shala Spa at Dream South Beach, Miami
Deep in the hippest section of South Beach and smack on Collins Avenue sits the cool 108-room Dream South Beach Hotel. The hotel is a combination of two historic hotel buildings, Palmer House and Tudor, which share one lobby, the popular Naked Taco Restaurant (try the Carnitas Taco with a cold Modelo beer), the Highbar rooftop lounge and an infinity pool. The place attracts hipsters, the kind of people who live in Brooklyn rather than Manhattan—because they prefer it.
The Shala Spa’s massage therapists are so good that some are even physical therapists. They know their stuff. Go for the Herbal Poultice Massage – It’s a rhythmic massage that utilizes organic herbal poultices that are steamed to release their healing properties then applied at pressure points to relax muscles and release tension. The Calming Poultice is a blend of basil, vetiver and ginger, which draws the body and mind into serenity and total harmony. The Indigo Poultice stimulates detoxification and treats muscle aches and pains with a blend of cinnamon, camphor and indigo leaf. You will leave walking on air.
The Nobu Eden Roc Hotel is the exact opposite experience. The 206-room Nobu Hotel is in the north tower of the huge, classic 624-room Eden Roc Miami Beach Resort, which has been a staple in Miami since 1956. An offshoot of Nobu Restaurant, created by Robert De Niro and Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, this hotel-within-a- hotel concept works as an extension of their high-class Nobu Hospitality brand. The Asian interior motif, with the liberal use of soothing grays and tan woods, sets a calming, classy tone that permeates throughout the hallways, stately rooms, 24-hour gym and most definitely in the Spa Eden Roc.
Signature Rituals are administered in 18 spa rooms: The 105-minute Nobu Nagomi features a floral foot bath, Asian-inspired massage, facial cleansing and a body exfoliation that blend together to increase relaxation, joint mobility and energy flow. The 90-minute Japanese Silk comprises a body exfoliation, full body massage with hot stones followed by a scalp massage and hair mask. To relieve your muscle and joint stiffness, the Aromatherapy, with its medium pressure massage and customized essential oils, helps restore complete balance. You walk into the spa, and exit in a state of bliss.
The Palms Hotel & Spa – A Touch of the Caribbean
Uniquely, this 251-room hotel offers guests homey accommodations and very tropical grounds that are reminiscent of resorts in Jamaica and Barbados. Tiki huts, manicured lawns, palm trees, bamboo trees and exotic flowers like Bird of Paradise dot the landscape. An herb garden provides fresh herbs for the exquisite farm-to-table dishes at the hotel’s Essensia Restaurant and Lounge: Start with the delectable Ropa Vieja Style Short Rib “Tostada,” move on to the Islander Bouillabaisse and top it off with the Passion Fruit Key Lime Pie.
At the Palms’ Aveda Spa, Aveda Aroma Massage, Ajurvedic Rejuvenation Experience and Stress Fix Massage are specialties. But try something different. Give yourself, and your precious feet, a Chakraflexology Treatment. The Chakraflexology focuses on the energy stored in the hands and feet, which stimulate the entire body. The treatment re-aligns your chakras (centers of spiritual power in the body, considered to be seven in number) with the use of aromas and reflexology massage. You pick three from seven chakra cards, which have images. Those three images correspond to scents. Then you pick your favorite scented oil. The treatment involves pressure and aroma that invigorate the hands and feet, as well as addressing the scalp, neck and shoulders. After your treatment, sharing a Cabanita built for two on the Palms’ beach is quite romantic.
Walking into the Setai’s Spa by THÉMAÉ’s treatment rooms should be described as a Zen experience. At first glance you feel a togetherness of body and mind that’s the result of exquisite, regal Asian-influenced interior design that is impeccable on every level. The tans and browns soothe your eyes. Two massage tables face gigantic windows with views of swimming pools. A large black vase, that looks like a Shang Dynasty relic, sits outside the glass. A feeling of calmness and ecstasy engulfs you before a hand has been laid on your sore, aching back.
Massages, facials, manicures and pedicures are aplenty, but go for the big prize. Get a treatment that you will never forget. Indulge your senses and act like this is the last massage ritual you will ever have. Try the 120-minute The Setai Ceremony ($390). It uses a back massage as it explores deep muscular techniques (sustained pressure, kneading) for the ultimate relaxation. Then there’s an anti-aging facial designed to combat wrinkles and loss of elasticity. That’s followed by a deep cleanse detox mask with tealeaves to promote a healthy glow. Then you get a fatigue-removal face massage. Go big or go home!
Eména Spa in the Fashionable Design District
The stylish Design District neighborhood is the Rodeo Drive/Madison Avenue of Miami. Walk past the Valentino, Bulgari, Cartier, Gucci and Versace storefronts and head to 4100 NE 2nd Ave. In this modern industrial-style building, the Eco Luxury Eména Spa offers some of the classiest spa services in the city. They are most noted for their Organic Facial Treatments that are administered by estheticians who carefully select and customize skincare regiments based on clients’ concerns and skincare needs.
The 50-minute Organic Facial is a custom mixture of organic fruit and vegetable-based skincare products that are chosen to bring out a radiant and glowing complexion. A client’s specific cocktail depends on whether they prefer to Lift and Plump, Calm and Soothe, Even and Tone, or Clean and Clear their complexion. The 50-minute Fire & Ice Facial makes skin glow. The estheticians infuse natural fruit acids into the skin along with organic spices to stimulate circulation and detoxify the skin and a remarkable organic exfoliation is achieved. Then cold, glass globes are applied to the face using rhythmic, massage motions that stimulate circulation and skin oxygenation while helping reduce inflammation. As you sit in the swank waiting room, don’t be shocked if you rub shoulders with a Hollywood A-lister.
Nothing goes better with a great spa treatment than an exciting dinner out, and Miami is the place where you can do both.
Espanola Way -- a Hot Place to Eat and People Watch
Espanola Way, a four-block street, runs from Collins Ave. to Pennsylvania Ave., between 14th and 15th St. It’s known for its Mediterranean architecture, hence the nickname “The Historic Spanish Village.” Outdoor cafes, stores and hotels draw big crowds. On the corner of Washington Ave and Espanola Way sits Havana 1957, arguably the best Cuban Restaurant in South Beach. Unarguably, the best Cuban cuisine that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Start your meal with the succulent Masitas de Puerco (tender, moist, fried cubed pork served with sweet grilled onions and Cuban mojo). Dig into the Vaca Frita de Pollo main course (grilled shredded seasoned chicken topped with onions in Cuban mojo). Order the Coconut Flan and the Tres Leches (three-milk cake) for dessert. Sit back and finish your Presidente beer and soon you’ll imagine you’ve traveled back to the bustling days of 1950s Havana.
Tapas & Tintos, on the corner of Española Way and Drexel, specializes in the cuisine of Northern Spain and has invigorating Flamenco shows. A singer, guitar player, a percussionist and two Flamenco dancers take to the stage. The singer growls Spanish lyrics like he’s the lead singer for the Gipsy Kings. The guitarist strums his instrument so fast it sounds like you’re hearing three guitars. The ladies weave their hands, contort bodies and stomp feet in an entrancing rhythm that brings the spirit of Spain into the room. Feast on the appetizer Pulpo a la Gallega (octopus with olive oil, boiled potatoes, sea salt and paprika). The house specialty is Paella De Marisco (seafood Paella). End the night with the Crema Catalana (Catalan’s version of crème brûlée).
Pub crawls are when patrons go from bar to bar drinking. Transfer that idea to fine cuisine, top restaurants and the chic neighborhood that is south of Fifth Street in South Beach and you’ll understand the concept for the brilliantly conceived Experience SOFI aka the South of Fifth Culinary Tour. It’s the brainchild of Rosemary Staltare, CEO of RS Consulting and Marketing. Experience SoFi benefits CI Foundation’s EAT SMART Program, which focuses on the battle against childhood hunger and childhood obesity by finding the perfect balance through nutritional awareness, health, wellness and exercise.
In its third year this popular evening event has grown to 850-ticketed participants who travel around to 15 restaurants that serve samples of their cuisine, fine wines and spirits. The amazing food and camaraderie is something to behold and the people-watching brings out Miami’s most well dressed crowd. (Wear comfortable Ferragamo loafers, and you’ll fit in!) The dazzling array of eateries included a wide variety of South of Fifth’s most revered: Red, the Steakhouse -- Miami Beach (best ribeye in the city); Cibo Wine Bar (largest Italian restaurant in South Beach); The Local House (a seafood focused local café that’s part of the quaint and comfortable Sense Beach House hotel; and Texas de Brazil (Miami’s top all-you-can-eat Churrascaria). This event is a foodie’s mecca.
July and August make up Miami Spa Month. Some of the aforementioned restaurants are also a part of Miami Spice, Miami’s culinary price-fixe program, which runs Aug. 1st - Sept. 30th. That makes this the summer of relaxation and cost-friendly fine cuisine all in one.
If you can’t make it to Miami before summer ends, you can enjoy a rejuvenating spa vacation and superb fine dining in America’s most vibrant beach town, any time of year.
Visit travel writer Dwight Brown at DwightBrownInk.com.